By Hazel P. Villa Inquirer ILOILO CITY--Sashaying to the live renditions of old Ilonggo favorites like Pinalangga (Beloved) and the more current Handumanan (Remembrance), models made their entrance up the burnished narra stairs, glided through antique rooms, and preened before an audience seated atelier-style on a balmy evening at the Sanson y Montinola Antillan House in E. Lopez Street, Jaro District, Iloilo City. The Antillan House itself, one of the very few left intact in the country, was like a debutante dressed for a grand ball—its trademark yakal rooftop carved decors were restored and repainted, shuttered windows were cleaned, and the exterior was painted a more cheerful mocha and pastel blue even as the brick foundations were spruced. It was not only because the Iloilo Heritage Gala was held at the Antillan House in May that Greg Sanson, the owner, decided to glam up his family’s turn-of-the-century ancestral home but also because heritage-conscious Ilonggos have once more revved up the advocacy machine calling for the preservation of Iloilo City’s heritage houses and buildings. The Gala was but one of the activities of the 15 members that the Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council (ICCHCC) spearheaded during the celebration of the National Heritage Month in May. The ICCHCC has architect Antonio Sangrador as chair representing the private sector while Noel Hechanova, its director, represents the government. “We must promote responsible appreciation of our culture. To preserve, we have to unite and beyond that, make people conscious of our heritage,” Bambi Harper, National Heritage Festival director, had said. For their “exemplary act of ongoing preservation and stewardship,” the Iloilo City government recently awarded plaques of appreciation to the owners or managers of the following heritage buildings: Sanson Y Montinola Antillan House, Zafiro Ledesma Residence, Casa Mariquit of the Lopezes, Nelly Garden, Montinola Residence, Marquez Lim Residence of former Sen. Nikki Coseteng, and the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. in J.M. Basa Street. Fashion, music, poetry Soon after cocktails, the guests, numbering about a hundred with some dressed in formal wear, entered the Antillan House for a night of Ilonggo fashion, music and poetry—effectively setting an ambiance of greater appreciation for things uniquely Ilonggo. The fashion show, topbilled by Ilonggo designers Don Protasio, Bo Parcon, Angelette Borja-Ragus and Jaki Peñalosa of the Designers Guild of Iloilo, started with two actors from the University of San Agustin Little Theater delivering excerpts from “Kawayan,” a poem by eminent Ilongga writer and poet Magdalena Jalandoni. Tingug (Voice), a young vocal ensemble formed in August 2006 under the directorship of Gerardo Muyuela set the mood for young designer Don Protasio’s collection with their rendition of the upbeat but distinctly Hiligaynon performance of Benny Castillon’s “Kruhay!” Though the fashion show’s motif was bamboo, avant-garde Protasio’s collection had models wearing mostly billowy black or gold dresses and blouses “as inspired by dark clouds, leaves and wind” for “dark romance” with bits and pieces of bamboo on the models as accessories. Apropos with Bo Parcon whose collection was made distinctive by a rugged, earthy look with tiny bamboo pieces forming squares and rectangles in his creations as “inspired by windows” or with bamboo acting as embellishments on what could have been run-of-the-mill creations. Bamboo gown, anyone? Women designers Angelete Borja-Ragus and Jaki Penalosa hewed more to the bamboo fashion motif as they pleasantly surprised the audience with their ingenuity and innovations with bamboo and indigenous fabric. Penalosa redefined the Philippine terno by marrying indigenous fabric such as hablon and raffia with contemporary designs with bamboo bits and pieces incorporated into either the beadwork of the gowns or into the shawls. Borja-Ragus had a model wear a bustier made of geometrically arranged bamboo and one wore a cocktail dress with bamboo “tapestry.” As if that wasn’t remarkable enough, another model came in wearing a skirt made of curled bamboo for that billowy look which you never thought was possible with such a hard material as bamboo. Applause followed a model wearing a Borja-Ragus ball gown with bamboo shavings as embellishments on the gown itself, complemented by an intricate but elegant hairpiece made of bamboo shavings too.
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By Pennie Azarcon dela Cruz Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--The idea, says fashion designer Barge Ramos, is to come up with clothes that are unmistakably Pinoy without looking like one is bound for an Independence Day Parade or a costume party. “It is possible to look thoroughly modern and contemporary and still retain the Filipino touch in one’s clothes,” says Ramos who is widely known for his barong Tagalog creations. Aside from being a gauge of one’s age, taste, income level and politics, clothes should proudly hark back to our cultural identity, says this erstwhile fashion journalist who expounded his theory through a weekly column for the newspaper Malaya from 1990-1995. The best of those columns have recently been gathered into a book of the same title, “Pinoy Dressing: Weaving Culture Into Fashion,” a scrumptious coffee table book that details how history has shaped the way we dress, and how clothes in turn reflect cultural beliefs and traditions. Among some tribes, it is believed that continuously weaving cloth transmits spiritual force and protective powers to the woven fabric. The process of weaving itself represents “continuing the threads of kinship and descent, with the simple motions of tying, binding and wrapping celebrating lineage, ancestry and solidarity.” The barong, a formal wear usually worn on special occasions, used to be a cautionary measure against Filipino insurgency during the Spanish times. Fearful of brewing dissent, colonial rulers required Filipino ilustrados to wear the sheer tunic shirt to reveal any hidden weapons tucked in their waistline. Such cultural minutiae and fashion history have always interested Ramos who held his first barong exhibit at the Ayala Museum in 1985. There he showcased photo silk screening of ethnic patterns on barong using synthetic silk. “I used photo screening instead of embroidery on barong because some foreigners find the lavishly embroidered national dress too feminine,” explains this designer who was first exposed to costume design as part of the theater group Dulaang Sibol at the Ateneo de Manila. Ramos has also toyed with historic imprints on his barong, including the signatures on the country’s declaration of independence in 1898. “My friends were joshing me, ‘ano yan, pirma sa tumalbog na tseke?’ (what are those? Signatures on bad checks?)” he recalls. His use of woven fabrics as accents on barong has found a receptive audience among balikbayans and Filipinos living abroad. This he attributes to “cultural pride, the need to assert our identity in a world where blending in seems to be the norm.” Among locals, the response has been mixed, he acknowledges. “Filipinos are rather conservative when it comes to fashion. They won’t wear anything until everybody else is wearing them.” His best bet are younger Pinoys who are more open to ideas and more experimental, notes this designer who hails the Monday rule during the Ramos presidency. Back then, he recalls, government employees were required to wear a Filipino dress at the start of the week. It was a chance to dress up and to feel proudly Pinoy every Monday, he says. But even the best intentions are weighed down by the ills of the local fashion industry, rues Ramos. “How can we compete with cheap fabric imports from China and the ukay-ukay (secondhand clothing) bargains?” he sighs. “Our textile industry is dead—killed by too many taxes.” Thirty years as a designer has taught Ramos that “everything in fashion begins with the right fabric—how it feels, how it falls and behaves… Before you can even conceptualize a design, you must know what fabric you’re using and where to source it—mainly abroad, in our case.” Fortunately, Ramos adds, brightening up, there are two things going for the Philippine fashion industry: “Creativity and design.” Production costs may be prohibitive, fabric choices may be restricted and the market limited, but there’s no arguing with the Filipino designers’ creativity, he sums up. “Pinoy Dressing: Weaving Culture into Fashion” will be launched on Aug. 17 at the second level of The Podium in Pasig, with an exhibit and fashion show interpreting the fashion illustrations in the book. For details, call Anvil Publishing c/o Gwenn Galvez at +63 2 637-8840.
By Alex Vergara Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--After three years of burning the lines and spending extended dinners with collaborators Ige Ramos and Winnie Velasquez, designer Barge Ramos has finally succeeded in combining his twin passions for fashion and journalism into one handsome coffee-table book that best reflects his niche as a purveyor of Filipino-inspired fashion. Published by Anvil Publishing, “Pinoy Dressing” is a collection of newspaper articles Barge wrote as a columnist for Malaya. The column, which went by the same name, ran for five years in the newspaper’s lifestyle pages in the early 1990s. Just like what he did in its previous run, Barge combined his essays, which are now grouped into corresponding chapters, with contemporary sketches by fellow designer and accomplished illustrator Loretto Popioco. Aside from providing the book’s pages with eye candy, just like in the past, Popioco’s illustrations offer readers with visual pegs on how these indigenous fabrics actually work if juxtaposed with today’s raging trends. If anything, the sketches help underscore the books’ two main objectives: to show people, especially Filipinos, how rich the country’s culture is through its indigenous fabrics; and to open up minds to the possibilities of using these materials in more contemporary ways. Even the book’s subtitle, “Weaving Culture into Fashion,” was lifted from the column’s very first title. But fans of the column, which tackled such diverse and sometimes dying art forms as tribal weaves based on chants and dreams, will be in for a surprise as Velasquez, the project’s book editor and Barge’s former boss in Malaya, consolidated several articles into one. Distillation process Apart from imbuing the book with a timeless quality, the distillation process makes for a more seamless and informative reading, says Barge. Anjie Blardony Ureta, Velasquez’s former assistant, wrote the foreword. “In essence, Winnie retained what I wrote and simply removed certain parts that pertained to current events then involving fashion,” says Barge. Being the true fashion designer that he is, he simply can’t resist comparing Velasquez’s editing process to that of making clothes. “She sort of got several gowns, took them apart, recut them, took out the best parts, re-sized them and merged these parts into one,” he adds. Velasquez also sat down with Barge and Ige to help them sift through hundreds of columns. When the purging process was over, they were able to whittle the number down to 70 or so columns, which, in their abridged form, eventually became part of the book. Since Loretto’s original sketches were no longer around, Ige had to scan the illustrator’s works one by one from actual newspaper pages. It was a good thing Barge had the foresight to keep most of his original columns, which, together with their illustrations, used to occupy entire pages in Malaya. The designer had to fill in the blanks by trooping to Ateneo de Manila University, his alma mater, to do some old-fashioned research. Research work is no stranger to Barge, who worked as a scriptwriter soon after graduating from college in the early 1970s. In fact, most of the information found in his columns was culled from research. Others came about from his dealings on the ground, particularly with weavers in Iloilo and Cotabato. Barge’s efforts to preserve and promote native, handloom weaving, embroidery and other art forms antedate his work as a fashion journalist. Cultural weight “The thought inspired me to stage my first barong exhibit embellished with silk-screened images of tribal weaves at the old Ayala Museum,” he says. “I figured that someday all these traditions would be gone unless they are passed on to younger generations, who are willing to learn them.” As the book’s designer, Ige, who won a National Book Award for best design for Ureta’s “Pilgrim’s Diary,” worked primarily on updating the book and giving it more cultural weight through several visual devices. Not only did he mixed and matched the sketches with certain articles (which, because of editing, weren’t in their original forms as well), he also supplemented each page with early 20th-century photos of tribal Filipinos from the collection of Jonathan Best and John Silva. “Ige took all the illustrations out of context from the columns and used them freely,” says Barge. In quite a number of cases, Popioco’s stylized drawings seem to match photos of real people, who wore the fabrics the way they were supposed to be worn almost a century ago. There was no way Popioco could have copied them, as he never saw those vintage pictures while he was providing Barge with weekly sketches for his columns. Archival images “The drawings mirror the articles,” says Ige. “Now, as we use them in the book, they dovetail. Loretto didn’t see any of these archival images, but being a Filipino designer the patterns and silhouettes were most likely in his subconscious.” Ige further updated the book’s look by framing each page and juxtaposing Popioco’s sketches with authentic indigenous prints culled from books provided by the Design Center of the Philippines and Intramuros Administration. There are quite a number of instances when he used recognizable patterns and actual photos as backgrounds to Popioco’s sketches. As a designer, Barge is aware of the absence of a real and viable local fabric industry that -- apart from providing people like him with a steady source of raw materials -- is nimble enough to cater and adjust itself to the needs of its clients. Addressing such problems isn’t the purpose of his book. “I just look at the positive side, what we have and what we can make use of,” he says. “The book’s aim is to inspire designers and entrepreneurs to explore various possibilities. I want to show them that combining local fabrics with current designs can be done.” Barge Ramos’s “Pinoy Dressing” will be launched Aug. 17, 6 p.m., at The Lounge, L/2 of The Podium.
By Apples Aberin Sadhwani Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--In celebration of Independence Day, here’s a shout out to all Filipino designers who make us truly proud to be Pinoy! To Rafé, Lesley Mobo, Monique Lhuillier, Cesar Gaupo, Bea Valdez and all those who’ve successfully ventured out to the highly competitive international fashion scene, kudos for putting us on the map and setting a wonderful example for all aspiring designers here in the Philippines. Yes, it is possible to dream big and to actually see one’s dreams come to fruition. To those who’ve stayed and who continue to elevate the standards of the local fashion industry -- that means you, Inno Sotto, Auggie Cordero, Jojie Lloren, Cesar Gaupo (again!), among others -- a big thank you for setting the bar and providing local clients a taste of high fashion at its finest. To those who continue to build and promote local brands like Tyler, Aranaz, Bench, F&H, Kashieca, Kamiseta, Bayo and such, thereby promoting locally designed products, please continue to collaborate with our extremely talented homegrown designers, who are not only brimming with ideas but who also understand the market they are serving. To all young designers and newbies out there, who continue to design and create in spite of limited resources, fueled only by passion for their craft, a big pat on the back for your tenacity and perseverance, which serve as an inspiration to others who are also struggling to be seen and heard. We, in Inquirer Lifestyle, hope to help spread the message that the Philippines is rife with talented individuals who need and deserve all the support they can get. We also hope to serve as a venue for you, our dear readers, to discover new faces and talents, as well as rediscover older (but not necessarily old!) ones. With that, here are four relatively new designers, who have joined and won various competitions here and abroad, and who are slowly but surely making their marks in the local fashion industry. Dimple Perez Lim, 25 First Grantee, Ben Farrales Scholarship Foundation, 2002; Crowd Favorite, Wild Vines Fashionista 2003; Second Place, Philippine Shoe Competition, 2003; Best in Casual, Fashion Institute of the Philippines Graduation Show, 2006; Bench Choice Award, Philippine Fashion Design Competition 2007 Educational background: BS Interior Design -- College of the Holy Spirit Certificate in Patternmaking -- Lasalle International All Pattern courses -- Fashion Institute of the Philippines What's your design philosophy? Imagination + reality = function. Everything is all about yin-yang. You have to be crazy but defined, fun and serious, avant-garde but wearable, old but new. When and how did you get started in the fashion business? I started in my parents' garments factory during my grade-school summer vacation. I would trim and pack T-shirts. Serendipitously, a few years ago, I would be in the same situation, but this time designing clothes for a street-wear brand. That was the time I affirmed that this is my destiny. What are your current projects? I'm working on a collection with my accessory-designer friend Jackie Tan and we will be launching it very soon. I’m also doing made-to-measure clothes for various clients and I’m collaborating with my cousin’s retail company. What makes you proud to be a Pinoy fashion designer? It makes me all the more proud being a designer in a Third World country like the Philippines. My sources of inspiration: creating and finding our own way, and eyeing things to come from a perspective unknown to global fashion. I’m proud to be in a sanctuary not many fashion people have discovered. Prisara Morales, 25 Finalist, Philippine Fashion Design Competition, 2007 Educational background: AB Interdisciplinary Studies, Major in Communication and Fine Arts, Ateneo de Manila University; took up a few classes in Clothing Technology, University of the Philippines; took up Fashion Design, Patternmaking and Haute Couture, Fashion Institute of the Philippines. What's your design philosophy? I love clean and pure shapes and forms, which translate into a very minimalist sensibility in my designs. I am very much into the structure of the piece and the way its details are tailored, rather than unnecessary embellishments. I want to create nondisposable clothing, pieces that people will keep and still love to wear for years to come. When and how did you get started in the fashion business? I'd always been making clothes for myself since my early teens. That was around the time grunge was in fashion and my sister and I would scour second-hand stores for vintage clothes, which we would fix up and customize to our liking. It was very hands-on, very D-I-Y, and I absolutely fell in love with the whole process -- choosing the material, designing, sewing and then the pleasure you get wearing something that you created. I realized then that I wanted to be a designer. A highlight in my career in the fashion business was apprenticing for Dita Sandico-Ong. A resilient figure in the local fashion industry, she imparted to me an appreciation of indigenous material and inspired me more than ever to pursue my dream. What do you hope to achieve in five years and what steps will you take to achieve it? I'd like to have established my clothing line by then and launched it into a serious business. At the moment, I've been developing miniature collections for my RTW line called Flight, but it's still in its infancy and not yet a full-fledged business. Another related but slightly off-tangent dream of mine is to set up a local design collective, something along the lines of the Surface To Air group, a modern-day version of Andy Warhol’s Factory. What makes you proud to be a Pinoy fashion designer? The Pinoy fashion industry is made up of the most creative, talented people and I'm proud to be counted among such a group. I am also proud to be in a field that allows me to share my point of view, and art, with the world. Jerome Salaya Ang, 29 Finalist, Smirnoff Fashion Awards 1999; Representative, Philippine Young Fashion Designers Competition in Paris 2004 and 2005; Delegate, Asia Europe Foundation Young Designers Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam 2005; Representative, Asia Young Fashion Designers Competition in Singapore 2004 and 2005; Finalist, Mercedez-Benz International Fashion Awards in Malaysia 2006 Educational background: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Major in Interior Design, University of Santo Tomas What's your design philosophy? Order in chaos. My signature style? Couture avant-garde. When and how did you get started in the fashion business? I started in the fashion business doing freelance designs for uniform companies. Then, I ventured into bridal fashions. I studied fashion in Saint Benilde under Inno Sotto, took further studies under Shanon Pamaong at the Fashion Institute of the Philippines. And also took draping courses at Raffles, Bangkok. Who are the designers you look up to? I admire Inno Sotto’s simple elegance, Shannon Pamaong's pattern techniques, John Galliano's opulent frivolity, Alexander McQueen's impeccable tailoring and master showmanship, and Hussein Chalayans' innovation. What do you hope to achieve in five years? In the next five years, I plan to expand my horizons by venturing into pret-a-couture shoes, bags and accessories. What makes you proud to be a Pinoy designer? I'm proud to be a Pinoy designer because we are globally competitive and we are trained to make the best out of things. Given the lack of resources and technology, we still manage to be on the top. Aries Iñigo Lagat, 24 Representative, Asean Skills Competition in Jakarta, Indonesia, 2003; Semi-finalist, Philippine Young Designers Competition 2005; Grand Prize winner, MEGA Young designer’s Contest, 2006 Educational background: I graduated at Ocsat (Ozamis City School of Arts and Trades) first in my class (and actually the only boy!) in Garment Technology in 2002. I also graduated from a Fashion Design course in Slims in 2004, from a scholarship that was given by Mr. Ben Farrales. Then, I took up a patternmaking course in FIP (Fashion Institute of the Philippines). I am currently teaching basic and advance patternmaking both for womenswear and menswear in FIP. What's your design philosophy? I am more of a tailored/experimental designer particularly in cuts and shape. My focus is always on the construction of the garment. It has to be precise, clean and well-executed. It's funny 'cause I was known for convertible pieces that I showed in the last MEGA competition. One time I made a cocktail dress for a client, and my students where asking me if it was going to transform into a jacket or a bag. When and how did you get started in the fashion business? I was 4 when my parents discovered my God-given talent for clothing design. I guess I broke their hearts when they realized I was going to be a fashion designer, and not a dentist or a seaman like they wanted me to be! But I guess I really started back in college where I made dance costumes for the faculty at school, then got a job as an assistant designer for Mimi Pimentel in Cagayan de Oro. How do you hone your craft? I always research, study all kinds of methods in patternmaking, making samples or prototypes for experimental projects and learning from every mistake that I make. As much as possible, I want to be hands-on 100 percent. What do you hope to achieve in five years and what steps will you take to achieve it? I’ll have my own atelier or I’ll be working for the great designers of the world like Christian Lacroix. I got a scholarship in Paris as my prize for the MEGA competition so I hope to take it early next year. What makes you proud to be a Pinoy designer? We are very talented and creative fashion designers and people. Jojie Lloren, Frederick Peralta, Carie Santiago and my favorite, Lesley Mobo, already proved that to the world. I just really hope and pray that Aries Iñigo Lagat would leave that kind of mark in the fashion industry.